Analysis: The case for more provinces in Pakistan

Published: July 14, 2016
A map showing Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

A map showing Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

In early 2012 Pakistan Peoples Party Government scored high political mileage with the announcement of making Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab a new province in line with the aspirations of the people of Southern Punjab. The then prime minster Yousuf Raza Gilani assured the people of South Punjab a province of their own. To materialise this objective senator Farooq Hamid Naek tabled the Constitution (Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Act, 2013 in the Senate on February 8, 2013. Article 2 of the Amendment Act explains the territorial boundaries of new province as:

‘The Province of Bahawalpur-Janoobi Punjab (BJP) shall comprise of territories of Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan Divisions and the Districts of Mianwali and Bhakkar.

Punjab to get three special economic zones

Then onwards the slogan of making new administrative units gained considerable attention in print, electronic media and civil society.

While the iron was red, provincial law minister Pakistan Muslim League (N) Rana Sanaullah moved two resolutions in Punjab Assembly on May 9, 2012. The first resolution demanded restoration of Bahawalpur as a separate province and the other demanded two divisions of South Punjab, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan, to be granted the status of a province. The resolutions further demanded the federal government form a commission with constitutional mandate and powers that can enable the demarcation of boundaries, division of assets and liabilities, water distribution and economic affairs between new administrative units.

Simultaneously, the movement for Hazara province in K-P under the leadership of chief of Tehreek-e-Suba Hazara Baba Hyder Zaman was initiated and the proponents demanded Hazara Division of K-P to be given the status of a province.

At the same time, the movement for Karachi province gained significant momentum in Sindh and a large fraction of the urban population was in favour of this demand. But as of today, there is silence on the demands and struggle for new provinces.

Election 2013 – Party manifestos and new provinces

The ruling party Pakistan Muslim League (N) promised to set up a high-powered commission to design criteria and modalities for the creation of new provinces. PML-N showed its resolve to make Bahawalpur, South Punjab and Hazara new provinces.

Pakistan Peoples Party had a very clear stance and firm resolve to establish new provinces. Based on the demand for identity and redressal of neglect and underdevelopment, Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are likely to be on the priority list.

12 sites proposed for special economic zones in Balochistan, K-P

Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Awami National Party and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) emphasised to mainstream FATA in line with the aspirations of local residents and the consensus of all stakeholders. Some of them promised to abolish Frontier Crimes Regulations along with establishing an inclusive socio-economic reforms package for FATA and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Muslim League (F) have no explicitly documented position on the creation of new provinces in their election 2013 manifestos. MQM though is in favour of creating new administrative units/provinces and has always been a proponent and major stakeholder in campaigning for Karachi province.

Unfortunately, these demands have gone to cold storages without realising that making new administrative units out of an unbalanced federation not only creates balance of power but also gives a sense of ownership and participation to historically backward areas and under-represented voices. This point was reaffirmed by the Ansari Commission Report which suggested, “All revenue divisions in the country should be made provinces. This will not only be a balancing factor, but will also instill a sense of equal participation in the affairs of the country in all the provinces, thus remove cause for malevolence.”

Unbalanced federation and federating units

Punjab alone accounts for 57.4% of the national population and 26.7% of land area, whereas Balochistan is little less than half the country’s land area and represents 5.1% of the total population. Given the larger share in population, Punjab has always been a major beneficiary of National Finance Commission (NFC) awards based on population alone.

From 2001-2012, Sindh has a dominant position in average federal tax collection amounting to 65.5% of total taxes, followed by Punjab at 29.8% and K-P and Balochistan receiving 3.3% and 1.4%, respectively. Certainly these statistics do not reflect revenue generation, nonetheless Sindh’s dominance is due to Karachi being the only port city and the country’s economic hub which alone accounts for 95% of tax collection from Sindh. Provincial own-sources tax revenue is roughly 6% in consolidated tax collection and provincial governments in Pakistan have a tendency to substitute their own-source tax revenue with federal transfers from NFC.

Inter- and intra-regional poverty statistics reveal glaring inter-regional differences. For instance, Punjab and Balochistan, central and south Punjab, urban and rural Sindh have unmatched differences in infrastructure and human development indicators. Although, NFC 2010 allocated divisible pool resources based on multiple criteria, including population, poverty and backwardness, revenue generation and collection and inverse population density, population is still an overriding consideration which is again favourable for Punjab given its relative share in total population.

As of today, districts in Pakistan have reached a total of 123, which is more than twice the number of districts at the time of independence. If new districts can be formed, then what’s the excuse for not forming new provinces? Specially, when federating units are too heterogeneous and make the federation unbalanced in terms of political and economic stability. The academic narrative and principles of federation also advocate federations with administrative units of balance and homogeneous characteristics.

Sindh Assembly session: Separate province demand heard again

In May 2013, the PML-N government was predominantly over-occupied by a number of compelling priorities like terrorism, energy crises, law and order, industrial shut down, etcetera. Three years have passed now and the government has set up its direction and agenda, it is therefore high time constitutional reforms and making of new provinces should be made a priority.

At least, lawmakers should objectively question what’s so sacrosanct in existing provinces and their boundaries. These are man-made, so a change for greater good of the country should not be delayed any more, lest the federation will remain unbalanced which does have a bearing on socio-economic differences and resource distribution.

Asim Bashir Khan is a PhD Scholar at IBA Karachi.



Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (16)

  • Haji Atiya
    Jul 14, 2016 - 3:57PM

    Is there any functional benefit as far as governance is concerned in splitting the pea ? Instead of wasting time on these harebrained political maneuvers, just get in with the task at hand !Recommend

  • Imran Ahmed
    Jul 14, 2016 - 5:56PM

    @Haji Atiya: please re-read the articleRecommend

  • PakPower
    Jul 14, 2016 - 6:51PM

    @Haji Atiya:
    Governance is enough of a benefit for splitting. You discount efficient governance as if it was nothing at all.Recommend

  • Jul 14, 2016 - 8:52PM

    It is tried to hide some current issues prevailing in city of Sindh province named as Karachi.It is really to politicize the issue of creating new provinces in the country. The article is biased and forcibly shown mismanagement of the powers. We cannot handle these provinces properly and we are trying to create new provinces that would cost a lot of money to construct new infrastructure for each province. We are already trapped into net debt before international organizations. Is it viable decision to demand in such a way. It is just waste of time to think about these things. It is out of sense. Recommend

  • NDA
    Jul 14, 2016 - 9:03PM

    It is time to focus on development. Our neighbors are developing leaps and bounds, and we want to deract ourselves and delve into these frovolous things. Recommend

  • Rollin & Trollin
    Jul 14, 2016 - 9:49PM

    Though such a move seemingly aspires to better governance, its merely a charade for more favorable odds in the ‘Game of Votes’.Recommend

  • Malveros
    Jul 15, 2016 - 12:34AM

    There is no need for more provinces. Better administration and governance is required which will improve with time.Recommend

  • syed & syed
    Jul 15, 2016 - 2:26AM

    Making more provinces means that there will be Chief Ministers, ministers, parliaments taxing to meet this giant stomach. If at all provinces are required then there should a Presidential form of government. Then make more provinces governed by Governors.lRecommend

  • Malik Saab
    Jul 15, 2016 - 3:52AM

    It is an internal issue of the provinces. Also Mr Asim Bashir Khan who authored this article has no right to talk on Punjab’s issue. Making more provinces is not a federal issue and Non Residents of Punjab should stop talking in the internal affairs of Punjab.
    Mr Khan can talk about KP instead. Why Only Punjab is targeted in this article?. Why every person with a last name as Khan think they have every right to talk about division and to decide the future of Punjab. ?
    Only the Punjabis have the right to decide their own future and the boundaries of their province. End of the story. Recommend

  • Ch
    Jul 15, 2016 - 8:07AM

    @Malik Saab:
    Good stuff man . These people want to divide punjab which we will not let it happen .
    Punjab alone contributes 60 % of total GDP of pakistan. As these people can’t compete with Punjab in development as we people of Punjab are very progressive, so they are talking non sense like this .Punjab will never, ever divide .Recommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Jul 15, 2016 - 9:02AM

    @Imran Ahmed:
    Didn’t need to…its merely a recast of “rule through division” Recommend

  • Muhammad Ali Baig
    Jul 15, 2016 - 12:41PM

    The additional cost factor should be considered but this is a problem with the existing provinces also. Except for KP where some sort of accountability exists the other 3 CMs are free to spend Public Funds on whim. Especially the Khadim-e-Ala is prone to experimenting with ideas like SAST ROTI, Danish Schools and Special Police Forces etc not to talk of Metro and Orange Line.

    Comparing Pakistan with other countries it is clear that we have fewer provinces, some bigger than many countries of the world. However, an efficient but lean & thin Governance structure is required.

    What does the Governor do? (reminds me of a nursery rhyme)
    Receives visitors, inaugurates conferences and keeps asking his Secretary what is next?
    With 18th amendment his role is further diminished rather obliterated.

    A two tier structure is proposed – Union/district councils to be abolished.
    20-25 units/provinces/counties, call them by whatever name.
    Directly elected Chief Executive (call him by any name)
    30 to 50 member elected council/assembly with legislative and oversight powers with no reserve seats.
    Upto 10 member cabinet selected on technical competence & not popularity – can be hired from outside the province (even a foreign country in which case title be adviser not minister)
    Elections after every 3 years.
    Resources distribution issues to be clear and royalty etc backlog/arrears settlement plan to be agreed upon & implemented.
    Budget and actual fiscal data to be made available on websites within 30 days.
    Higher Education, Health policy and other centralized subjects be transferred back to Federation.
    Provinces to achieve results on Literacy, Healthcare, Environment, 100% NADRA registration, land records’ computerization, eGovernance and Internal Security based on KPIs which should be part of National Action plan. Federation to have the power to ask under-performing Governments to show cause and dismiss them if necessary.

    EOBI and Social Security be merged in one institution. Returns to be selectivity audited by Chartered/Management Accountants.Recommend

  • Kickass
    Jul 16, 2016 - 7:35PM

    @Haji Atiya:
    You appear to be totally uneducated.Recommend

  • Kickass
    Jul 16, 2016 - 7:39PM

    Do you know how many provinces your “Neighbour” has and how many were created after partition? Find out.Recommend

  • syed & syed
    Jul 17, 2016 - 1:56AM

    @Malik Saab Punjab is a part of Pakistan. If people of Punjab want more provinces let us have referendum in those areas. Similar is the case Sind and Baluchistan. Also if FATA people want a separate province they have every right. They may join KPK Please think like Pakistani and be a Pakistani not Punjabi etc etc :Recommend

  • Ali Raza
    Jul 17, 2016 - 5:00AM

    @dr. Asim Bashir Khan

    Dr. Asim Bashir Khan is trying to divide Pakistan. Never ever try to think of the division of SINDH, it will be division of Pakistan actually.Recommend

More in Pakistan